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Windows 7: mp3 problems in my car


09 May 2014   #1

multiple
 
 
mp3 problems in my car

Hello,

I have a bunch of audiobooks & podcasts that I like to listen to in my car, which has a USB port that I can directly plug my flash drive into (sweet!).

Some of my mp3 audiobooks & podcasts play just fine, while others are unreadable.

Why isn't it all or nothing? Is there some way to mod the ones that won't play so they are compatible with my car?

My System SpecsSystem Spec
.

09 May 2014   #2
Microsoft MVP

Windows 7 Ultimate X64 SP1
 
 

You might check to be sure the flash drives are formatted for what the car accepts, NTFS, Fat32, etc. Are all the audio formats the same? That is, is it some MP3s work and other MP3s don't?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
10 May 2014   #3

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 SP1, Home Premium, 64-bit
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by CosmicJest View Post
Hello,

I have a bunch of audiobooks & podcasts that I like to listen to in my car, which has a USB port that I can directly plug my flash drive into (sweet!).

Some of my mp3 audiobooks & podcasts play just fine, while others are unreadable.

Why isn't it all or nothing? Is there some way to mod the ones that won't play so they are compatible with my car?
I bought a car stereo with front USB input 3 months ago. No issues yet. I use a 64 GB Kingston mini-USB drive containing about 10 folders and 14,300 songs. All mp3s.

Don't overlook hardware limitations. Certain brands and models have limitations on what they will recognize and play properly. For instance, Kenwood units typically can't see more than 255 files in any given folder. My Pioneer can't see more than 14,999 songs on a USB stick, but I could put that entire amount in a single folder if I wanted to set it up that way.

I wouldn't put a whole lot of faith in the instruction manual or available support for your playback unit from the manufacturer. A lot of it is trial and error that you have to do yourself.

Is that USB drive formatted FAT32? Most likely it should be.

Are the files in question playable from that USB drive when it is plugged into a PC, rather than into your car's head unit?

Is the problem that the unit can't even index and display the file names? Or that it seems to find the files, but then can't play them?

Are the files in question playable directly from your PC hard drive?

Do the non-playable files have anything in common, such as where you got them, low bit rate, size in MB, length in minutes and seconds, unusual characters in the file name, how or if they were edited, file name length, etc?

Have you considered converting the problem files from mp3 to WAV and then re-convert back to mp3 with a known good tool?

Do the files play properly if they are in some other format acceptable to your head unit--possibly FLAC, AAC, WAV, or whatever?

Are the non-playable files all in the same folder?

Do any of the files have an unusually long path length?

Are you using deeply nested folders such as E:\mp3\novels\adventure\19th century\Melville\Moby Dick?

Did you do the conversion to mp3 for the files in question? Or did you acquire them in mp3 form?

Do the files in question play properly in the car if they are loaded onto another USB drive?

Do the files in question show any errors when examined with an mp3 utility program?

Trial and error. Rinse and repeat. Those files must have something in common, but it's up to you to discover what that is.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
.


10 May 2014   #4

multiple
 
 

Britton & ignatzatsonic, you have given me much to work with.

I'm currently using a 64GB PNY flash drive in the car. It's a tiny little thing that is very unobtrusive, which is why I like it, although it has other operational issues that are inconvenient, so perhaps there's a hardware problem as suggested. I have re-formatted it to NTFS and am re-loading it now. Perhaps this will resolve the problem.

To reply to a few of the questions and suggestions:
- yes, some of the audiobook & podcast mp3s play, others do not. I have not had any problem at all with music mp3s.
- I have previously considered the issue of hardware, arriving at no conclusion. Most of my flash drives are SanDisk. I have had the playback issue when using a SanDisk drive, as well.
- zero info available on the flash port in my car from the manufacturer, other than that an iPod adapter was provided and how to use that.
- yes, the files play fine on my laptop.
- the non-playable files are from multiple sources.
- I have not tried converting the files to another format. That will be the next thing I try, if necessary.
- the non-playable files are in different folders - all the audiobooks are in subfolders of an audiobook folder, likewise for the podcasts.
- the file structure is not deeply nested; it's folder\subfolder\file.
- no, the files don't play on my SanDisk drives.
- I don't have an mp3 utility program. Is there one you would recommend?

...and I'm off to rinse and repeat!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
10 May 2014   #5

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 SP1, Home Premium, 64-bit
 
 

see comments in bold and at end:

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by CosmicJest View Post
Britton & ignatzatsonic, you have given me much to work with.

I'm currently using a 64GB PNY flash drive in the car..........I have re-formatted it to NTFS and am re-loading it now.

What brand and model head unit?

Have you downloaded and poured over the manual? Does the manufacturer have a forum?

They are usually very explicit about what file system they require and it's typically not NTFS. I'd probably rely on the manual for that info. Have you done a full format or just quick format?

Frankly, if music mp3s play back OK with FAT32 format, I wouldn't expect a change to NTFS to improve things. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if your head unit won't play anything that uses NTFS.


- yes, some of the audiobook & podcast mp3s play, others do not. I have not had any problem at all with music mp3s.

Did they ever play OK from that particular drive on that particular head unit?

The fact that music mp3s have no issues makes me suspect the podcast/audio book files or possibly their compatibility rather than a hardware "defect" per se.


- I have previously considered the issue of hardware, arriving at no conclusion. Most of my flash drives are SanDisk. I have had the playback issue when using a SanDisk drive, as well.

SanDisk as well as SanDisk? SanDisk as well as PNY? Don't understand.

Certainly try multiple brands and models.



- zero info available on the flash port in my car from the manufacturer, other than that an iPod adapter was provided and how to use that.

Again, what brand and model head unit?

Are you playing back DIRECTLY from a USB stick plugged into a port on the head unit's face? Or via a cable or secondary device of any type? All of my playback is direct.


- yes, the files play fine on my laptop.

Not surprising and pointing to the particular files or compatibility with car hardware.

- the non-playable files are from multiple sources.

Such as? I'm wondering if they have some peculiar info in the header that renders them incognito to your head unit. Mp3val might find that.

- I have not tried converting the files to another format. That will be the next thing I try, if necessary.

Confirm first if your head unit supposedly will play back formats other than mp3. Not sure all will.

When you convert, try giving the converted file a very ordinary short name like test.mp3 and then placing test.mp3 in various locations on at least 2 USB sticks---such as in the root, in folder A, in folder B, etc.

Can you then at least use the search/scan functions on the head unit to confirm that the files are even being seen and indexed--let alone being properly played?




- the non-playable files are in different folders - all the audiobooks are in subfolders of an audiobook folder, likewise for the podcasts.

And moving them to the root of the USB stick doesn't improve things?

Is there anything peculiar about these audiobook files, such as maybe chapters? I've never even heard one and have no knowledge, but am guessing audiobooks and podcasts have some characteristic not found in an ordinary music mp3 and that may be causing the problem for your head unit.


- the file structure is not deeply nested; it's folder\subfolder\file.

Try putting a problem file in the root and see if it plays.

- no, the files don't play on my SanDisk drives.

Don't play on any SanDisk USB stick or any PNY USB stick when plugged directly into a front port on head unit?

- I don't have an mp3 utility program. Is there one you would recommend?

See below

...and I'm off to rinse and repeat!

I forget to tell you to lather, but I'm sure you knew that.
A few more random thoughts:

Will the unplayable files play OK if burned to a disc and played back from your head unit's CD player, rather than a USB stick?

Will your head unit supposedly play back mp3s burned to CD as "data" files or must they be burned as "audio" files?

Re converting files to and from mp3, WAV, FLAC, etc: experimentation tells me that these tools don't all work the same way. So I'd try to use more than 1 tool as some of them may introduce something into the file that is non-standard and confuses your head unit. Maybe try Freemake and some other random tool you can dig up on the net--such as Audacity from Audacity: Free Audio Editor and Recorder

If you look at the problem files in a hard drive playback program such as Media Monkey or whatever you use, do you see any odd-looking information, such as a way wrong running time? Or a known wrong bit rate? Or a weirdo encoder that you've never heard of? I try to use just Lame or FHG.

Here's a few free tools with comments:

Mp3 quality modifier: to "shrink" the size of your mp3s by re-encoding to a lower bit rate. Works OK for me. Quite flexible. Allows you to squeeze more mp3s on a USB stick.

InspireSoft ? clear, easy, portable software

mp3directcut; to edit mp3s without re-encoding; works fine for me; you can edit mp3s with other apps, but this one doesn't re-encode, thereby not reducing sound quality. If you are dealing with spoken word, probably not necessary as they are likely low bit rate anyway.

mpesch3.de - Homepage of mp3DirectCut and 1by1 - free mp3 editor+recorder and audio directory player

mp3val; to test and repair mp3s; works OK with limitations. Some audibly defective files will pass the tests. If so, the only solution I've found is to get another copy or edit out the defect with another tool. Some audibly perfect files will allegedly have errors and repairing the supposed errors has no audible effect. Some files might pass the test and flunk the test months later when you re-run it.

MP3val - home page

freemake converter for audio and video files; convert to and from mp3, wave, mp4, etc; works OK; you can control the format, bit rate, mono/stereo, etc.

Freemake | Best Freeware Alternatives To Paid Video Software


Mp3utility; to catalog mp3s and identify and correct supposed errors. Similar to mp3val; very good for cataloging, but like mp3val it won't necessarily make glitchy files un-glitchy. Works on entire directories or just one file at a time.

MP3Utility Free Download
My System SpecsSystem Spec
10 May 2014   #6

multiple
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by ignatzatsonic View Post
Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by CosmicJest View Post
What brand and model head unit?
No idea. Sorry.
Have you downloaded and poured over the manual? Does the manufacturer have a forum?
The only manual is for my car, and it does not give me any detailed info on the manufacturer. I haven't registered with any forums for my car, but if we don't figure this out here, I guess I'll have to do that...
They are usually very explicit about what file system they require and it's typically not NTFS. I'd probably rely on the manual for that info. Have you done a full format or just quick format?
I did a quick format. I should have gone to the trouble to get the user manual and look, because FAT is the system, specifically FAT 32, which my Dell Inspiron doesn't list as a formatting option. When NTFS failed, I reformatted the PNY as ex-FAT, but now the car doesn't register the flash drive at all, so I've re-purposed it as a backup. I don't have a SanDisk of the proper size at the moment, so I'll just continue to work on figuring out the "broken" files in the meantime.
Frankly, if music mp3s play back OK with FAT32 format, I wouldn't expect a change to NTFS to improve things. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if your head unit won't play anything that uses NTFS.
Yep. You were right!
- yes, some of the audiobook & podcast mp3s play, others do not. I have not had any problem at all with music mp3s.

Did they ever play OK from that particular drive on that particular head unit?
No.
The fact that music mp3s have no issues makes me suspect the podcast/audio book files or possibly their compatibility rather than a hardware "defect" per se.
And this will lead me to the mp3 utility for diagnosing the original files.
- I have previously considered the issue of hardware, arriving at no conclusion. Most of my flash drives are SanDisk. I have had the playback issue when using a SanDisk drive, as well.

SanDisk as well as SanDisk? SanDisk as well as PNY? Don't understand.
The same files that won't play on the PNY also wouldn't play on the SanDisk. I've ignored the issue for the past year & a half, but recently got a bunch of new audiobooks, and it's when I'm in my car that I listen to them, so I'd really like to get this figured out now.
Certainly try multiple brands and models.
I'll be buying a new 64 or 128 GB flash drive very soon - I'll choose a brand other than SanDisk or PNY.
- zero info available on the flash port in my car from the manufacturer, other than that an iPod adapter was provided and how to use that.

Again, what brand and model head unit?
IDK. The user manual doesn't specify.
Are you playing back DIRECTLY from a USB stick plugged into a port on the head unit's face? Or via a cable or secondary device of any type? All of my playback is direct.
Direct playback.
- the non-playable files are from multiple sources.

Such as? I'm wondering if they have some peculiar info in the header that renders them incognito to your head unit. Mp3val might find that.
The audiobooks I recently acquired are from booksshouldbefree.com (librevox). The podcasts are from this website & that. The audiobooks that play correctly have all been purchased and downloaded. It's kinda strange because the user's manual says "Music tracks with integrated DRM cannot be played", but all my music plays just fine!
- I have not tried converting the files to another format. That will be the next thing I try, if necessary.

Confirm first if your head unit supposedly will play back formats other than mp3. Not sure all will.
The user manual says "Popular audio files such as mp3, aac, m3u, pls, and wpl playlists can be played. Depending on the audio file, proper playback cannot be ensured in every case, such as for bit rates greater than 256 kb/s." I checked the audiobooks, and they are only 64 kb/s.
When you convert, try giving the converted file a very ordinary short name like test.mp3 and then placing test.mp3 in various locations on at least 2 USB sticks---such as in the root, in folder A, in folder B, etc.

Can you then at least use the search/scan functions on the head unit to confirm that the files are even being seen and indexed--let alone being properly played?
When browsing the stick, I can see the folder and the files - it's only when I try to play the files that I get the "unreadable file" message.
- the non-playable files are in different folders - all the audiobooks are in subfolders of an audiobook folder, likewise for the podcasts.

And moving them to the root of the USB stick doesn't improve things?
No.
Is there anything peculiar about these audiobook files, such as maybe chapters? I've never even heard one and have no knowledge, but am guessing audiobooks and podcasts have some characteristic not found in an ordinary music mp3 and that may be causing the problem for your head unit.
Well, yes, the books have chapters, the same as music albums have tracks - except chapters are a lot longer. This hasn't proven to be an issue with the purchased audiobooks - only with the free audiobooks and podcasts.
- the file structure is not deeply nested; it's folder\subfolder\file.

Try putting a problem file in the root and see if it plays.
I put a file on a the root of a 4 GB SanDisk, and then copied it and renamed it "test". Both file names showed up, but neither was readable.
- no, the files don't play on my SanDisk drives.

Don't play on any SanDisk USB stick or any PNY USB stick when plugged directly into a front port on head unit?
None that I have used.
- I don't have an mp3 utility program. Is there one you would recommend?

See below
Thank you for the list.
...and I'm off to rinse and repeat!

I forget to tell you to lather, but I'm sure you knew that.

A few more random thoughts:

Will the unplayable files play OK if burned to a disc and played back from your head unit's CD player, rather than a USB stick?
Yes, but this isn't a solution for me, as a single audiobook takes several disks, and I've worked myself away from having a lot of CDs on hand. I very much like the extreme portability of digital files, and have gotten quite spoiled by the USB port in my car!
Will your head unit supposedly play back mp3s burned to CD as "data" files or must they be burned as "audio" files?
My car won't read data CDs.
Re converting files to and from mp3, WAV, FLAC, etc: experimentation tells me that these tools don't all work the same way. So I'd try to use more than 1 tool as some of them may introduce something into the file that is non-standard and confuses your head unit. Maybe try Freemake and some other random tool you can dig up on the net--such as Audacity from Audacity: Free Audio Editor and Recorder
I do have Audacity, and have used it for years for simple audio editing. I'd thought of sending the files through there (I also have Switch for converting formats), but because mp3s are already lossy, I didn't want to risk having the quality deteriorate. But perhaps your suggestion of mp3directcut would serve the purpose here. Otherwise, I'm not so sure how to go about it - would I save as a different format, and then re-save again as mp3?
If you look at the problem files in a hard drive playback program such as Media Monkey or whatever you use, do you see any odd-looking information, such as a way wrong running time? Or a known wrong bit rate? Or a weirdo encoder that you've never heard of? I try to use just Lame or FHG.
I use VLC for all my media playback. I haven't noticed anything untoward about these files.
Very good and useful questions. Thank you for taking the time to ask them!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
10 May 2014   #7

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 SP1, Home Premium, 64-bit
 
 

Regarding the head unit: can you post a picture of it? I might be able to ID it by sight, at least to the brand/manufacturer level.

Consider the Kingston mini-USB drives. The protruding part is about the size of a jelly bean. I saw a 64 GB model for $30 the other day. Five year warranty.

http://www.amazon.com/Kingston-Digit...pr_product_top

Not sure how you are trying to format the drives, but try this tool from HP designed just for USB drives:

HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool - Free download and software reviews - CNET Download.com

If that fails, you could consider using a Linux-based tool or Diskpart from within Windows.

Files larger than 4 GB can't be stored on FAT32, but I'm assuming that does not apply to you?

SanDisk drives may have an app on them called "U3 Launchpad" from the factory that may interfere with formatting, so you might have to get rid of that. Try the HP tool first.

ex-FAT is supposed to be similar to FAT 32 but not have the 4 GB limitation, but unless you get evidence to the contrary, I would assume your car unit DEMANDS FAT 32. All car units I'm familiar with ask for FAT 32.

Since your unit allegedly plays AAC, you might try some conversions to that. I think AAC is lossless?

It's very very unlikely you would ever notice quality loss when re-encoding spoken word mp3s once. I do it occasionally on music mp3s and have NEVER been able to notice it if I do it only once and keep the re-encode up to a high level, say 96 mono or 192 stereo. So I wouldn't worry about it.

Since certain files fail on both PNY and SanDisk, that points away from brand being an issue and toward head unit or file peculiarity.

To use Audacity to change formats:

Open the file in Audacity. Go to file/export. Choose something lossless like WAV or FLAC for file type. Save. The file will be saved with the same name, but a different extension.

To later convert that back to mp3:

Open the WAV or FLAC, go to file/export. Under "save as type", choose mp3. Poke options button. Select variable. Under quality, select a low number for high quality. I use 2, but you could use 0 if antsy about quality. Under variable speed, select fast. For file name, you could slightly modify the name so the original won't be overwritten. Such as change "Moby Dick" to "Moby Dick test". Then hit save button.

You need to have "Lame for Audacity", which you may already have? It's available through the Audacity site.

Re VLC: does it display info about encoders, running time, channels, etc?

What's the smallest problem file you have? I'm wondering if you can upload it here so I can download it and see if it makes my car stereo puke?

Or give me a link to a free problem file at booksshouldbefree.com and I'll see what happens with it on my end.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
11 May 2014   #8

multiple
 
 

Converting the files to aac did the trick! Thank you for the suggestion! Other feedback below.

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by ignatzatsonic View Post

Consider the Kingston mini-USB drives. The protruding part is about the size of a jelly bean. I saw a 64 GB model for $30 the other day. Five year warranty.

Amazon.com: Kingston Digital 64GB Micro USB 2.0 DataTraveler (DTMCK/64GB): Computers & Accessories
Next time I need a flash drive, I'll try a Kingston
Not sure how you are trying to format the drives, but try this tool from HP designed just for USB drives:

HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool - Free download and software reviews - CNET Download.com
This allowed me to format my flash drives as FAT 32, so I should have no further problem with my car reading any flash drive I put in. Another thank you, here.
ex-FAT is supposed to be similar to FAT 32 but not have the 4 GB limitation,
Good to know.
Thanks so much for your help!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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 mp3 problems in my car




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